Author Archives: Joan Marie

About Joan Marie

An experienced writer, Joan is the author of the nonfiction books Voyager: Exploring the Outer Planets, Boldly Writing and Weight Loss Success!, as well as the novels Countdown to Action!, Action Alert!, Deadly Danger!, Situation: Critical!, Extreme Hazard!, and Danger Zone! plus numerous short stories and articles. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. She has served on the board of directors of both the Minnesota Science Fiction Society and the Mythopoeic Society.

Twelve is now available!

Twelve is now available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover formats.

His love is locked inside an enigma. Can he solve the mystery to make himself a home?

A hidden kingdom. The 18th century. Alden grew weary of battle long ago. And now the honorable soldier seeks to put the horrors of war behind him to settle in a land of peace and start a family. And while an attractive shopkeeper catches his eye, he finds himself caught up in the kingdom’s greatest riddle: the twelve daughters of the king and queen vanish every night and reappear in the morning with their shoes worn out.

Drawn to a shared passion for dancing as he spends more time with the woman of his dreams, Alden can’t avoid a growing involvement with the land’s enchanted magic. And as he does so, he starts to realize that the alluring woman he’s falling for may hold the key to answering the perplexing mystery.

Can Alden unravel a magical entanglement and find his way to happily ever after?

Twelve is a charming fairy tale retelling. If you like upstanding heroes, picturesque romance, and delightful surprises, then you’ll adore Joan Marie Verba’s heartwarming story.

Buy Twelve to expose the realm’s enchanting secrets today!


Website for Twelve

You can visit the website for Twelve and find ordering information by clicking here.

Cover for upcoming novel, Twelve, updated cover for Revenge, Denied, plans for Defying the Ghosts audiobook

I’ve settled on a title and a cover for the novel I’ve recently completed, a retelling of the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”

I’m hoping to release the novel in late summer or early fall.

I’ve also revised the cover for my self-published young adult fantasy short story, “Revenge, Denied.”


Currently working on…

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on getting my young adult novel, Defying the Ghosts, up on Google Play as an ebook. Once it’s available as an ebook, I’m hoping to use Google Play’s new feature allowing me to make it into an audiobook. (It’s currently only available as a hardback, a paperback, or an ebook.)

I’m also planning on constructing a website for Twelve. As a web developer, I always find it exciting to start building a new website.

Modern Surprises reissued with the title The Arachne Portal

The Arachne Portal: Same story, different title!

Women scientists having fun saving the world…unless someone kills them first and steals their tech.

Their goal is to make the world a better place. One billionaires’s obsession may turn their altruism into destruction.

Jay Ecklund is desperate to belong somewhere. Rejected by his family and former employer, he really needs this job as a receptionist at an up-and-coming tech corporation. He’s astonished when he discovers the all-woman staff is secretly developing a portal capable of instantaneous transport to anywhere on Earth.

Thrilled to be part of a company designing innovations to help others, Jay is excited when the machine is at last operational. But he worries about it falling into the wrong hands when an ambitious billionaire hell-bent on accumulating power makes a bid to get it…at any cost.

Will the portal be used as a rescue device as intended, or will a relentless manipulator warp it to a more sinister purpose?

The Arachne Portal is an electrifying standalone science fiction novel. If you like fast-paced adventures, phenomenal science, and thought-provoking themes, then you’ll love this compelling story.

Read The Arachne Portal to open a gateway to the future today!

Defying the Ghosts: A Haunted House Story by Joan Marie Verba

A teen without a home. A dangerous residence. Can she survive one terrifying night to secure her future?

Charlene Griffin never thought she’d be without a home. But when she’s kicked out on her eighteenth birthday, she has no choice but to sleep inside an ominous Victorian mansion. And with the owner offering the estate to anyone who can spend a full night in the haunted property, Charlene decides to risk life and limb to get off the streets.

Refusing to heed the warnings of those sent running in fear for their lives, Charlene is confident she can last from sunset to sunrise. But she’ll need all her wits about her to withstand the hours of terror, because these ghosts are determined to get rid of her.

Will Charlene outsmart her supernatural foes and make it to dawn?

Defying the Ghosts is an eerie YA haunted house story. If you like heart-racing action, fearless heroes, and survival adventures, then you’ll love Joan Marie Verba’s thrilling tale.

Buy Defying the Ghosts to explore forbidden shadowy corners today!

Reflections on 40 years of changes, personal

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. – Maya Angelou

Today, October 28, 2019, is the 40th anniversary of my reaching lifetime status with Weight Watchers. Since that day, I have weighed in every single month (except for a six-month stretch in 1987-88 when I was extremely ill), and I have never been more than 2 pounds above my goal weight these past 40 years.

Not that it has been easy. In that interval, my weight has gone up and down, sometimes for known reasons, sometimes for unknown reasons. Over the course of 2018, I gained 12 pounds. My clothes were getting tight, and by the first week of January 2019, I was one pound away from losing my free lifetime status and my unbroken record. Since then, I’ve reduced the amount of food I’ve been eating, and it has taken me 9 months to lose 10 pounds. I am at a comfortable weight again. (What turned out to be my ideal weight, in my estimation, is 8 pounds under my official goal weight.)

This brings me to a difficult reality of long-term weight loss:

Once you try to lose weight, you can never go back to eating the way you did before (if you want to keep it off).

This is due to the fact that when you lose weight, your metabolism slows down, and never returns to the point it was before you started to lose weight. This is the reason that those who have made multiple attempts to lose weight (example: “yo-yo” dieting) reach a point where they literally cannot lose weight, because their metabolism is at such a low level that in order to lose weight, they would have to take in fewer calories than the number of calories they would need to live. So they’re stuck.

This is the reason that, in 1979, I lost weight at a rate of about 2 pounds a week, and in 2019, I lost weight at a rate of about 1 pound per month. (Fortunately for me, I’ve not made numerous attempts to lose weight only to gain it back again, so that I’m not at the point where in order to lose weight, I would have to eat fewer calories than is necessary for basic survival, but this is still darn slow.) Adding to this is that the metabolism naturally slows over time. As a result, over the 40 years since I reached my goal weight, I have gradually had to eat less and less food in order to maintain my ideal weight. (When I reached menopause, I gained about 15 pounds very quickly. Fortunately for me, I was about 15 pounds below my goal weight at the time.) Again, I wish to emphasize that I’m not anywhere near the point where I would eat less than the basic amount needed for survival.

My weight has not remained stable over these 40 years. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes down. Even when I haven’t changed the amount I eat daily. Sometimes I can guess as to the reasons I gained or lost, other times I have no idea.

In 1979, I had the thought that once I lost the weight, I would stay at that weight (there is some evidence for a “set point,” that is, a weight that the body resists going over or under, but I have not found this to be a significant factor for me). Within a week of reaching my lifetime status, that thought was disproved very quickly.

Some doctors are finally taking the issue of obesity seriously. There’s still a widespread belief among too many physicians that all one has to do to lose weight is to have the amount of calories eaten to be less than the amount of calories expended, but it isn’t that simple, and it never was. Doctors admit that they have very little training about weight issues in medical school. Some say that it amounted to maybe 1-2 sessions. It is absolutely the truth that the average Weight Watchers (now WW) leader knows more about weight loss than the average doctor. (WW gives hours and hours of training in the latest scientific research about weight.) Once or twice when I was a Weight Watchers leader, I was approached by a member who told me that her doctor asked her to ask me about a weight loss issue. I have witnessed other members approach other leaders with queries from their doctors.

My view is this: yes, the reason that the weight loss experience is such a horrendous one is that humans evolved for millennia in an environment of food scarcity (and the human body will strongly resist any attempt at weight loss), and the evolution of the human body has yet to catch up with an environment of food abundance. Therefore, my opinion is that if doctors want everyone at a certain BMI, they need to stop lecturing people about eating less or referring people to weight loss surgery, and concentrate on finding a way to artificially compensate if there’s ever going to be progress made. [I am not holding my breath, however, that this will be done anytime soon.]

As a result of this, some are taking charge of the issue independently of the medical profession. Some individuals are just fine with their current weight, and feel they don’t need to change that. Good for them.

I am in favor of the “body positivity” movement. People need to be comfortable with how their bodies look no matter how much they weigh. Getting rid of the social stigma of being overweight would NOT encourage people to overeat; it would, however, greatly enhance their mental and emotional health. There is a rising movement which feels that it isn’t necessary for everyone to be thin. I understand where they’re coming from.

I felt it was necessary for me to get to what I felt was a reasonable weight, and I feel that choice is also valid. That’s the reason I went to WW, and was an employee for a time.

For that reason, I feel I need to say a little more about Weight Watchers (WW). I lost weight on the Weight Watchers program in 1979. I was an employee of Weight Watchers from 2000-2009. Since then, WW has not only changed its name, but has stopped calling its sessions meetings (they are now called workshops), and calls its locations “studios,” both of which are positive developments, in my opinion. They have also changed their approach to emphasize healthy lifestyles (which were always a part of the program, but are now more prominent) as opposed to centering on weight loss.

I follow individuals who are part of the body positivity movement on social media. I don’t comment on their posts, I just read them. A couple have said that WW is part of the problem, as opposed to being part of the solution, and moreover, that WW has indulged in body shaming. I have never witnessed this in my 40 years of association with WW. I can tell you that, as an employee, I was told never to read a weight number aloud, and not to give my own weight, because there would be individuals around who would never get to that weight, and comparing their weight to mine could be a problem for them. That made sense. If I, or any other WW employee, had “fat shamed” anyone, we would have been given a reprimand at the first instance, and be fired upon repetition. (When I was an employee, I read the employee message boards daily, and on rare occasions there were reports from other employees witnessing WW receptionists giving disparaging remarks to members. So I know it happened. But I never witnessed it myself, it was never company policy, and I know those who did it were in danger of being fired.) Company policy has always been, and is now, to have WW be a welcoming place for everyone and a shelter from the outside, fat-shaming, world.

[I will say that the situation was different when I joined WW in 1979. The scale was in the middle of the room, we all lined up and were weighed. The weigher told us our weight aloud (in a conversational tone, not shouted across the room). This did not bother me in the least. I know it bothers many individuals, however. The point is, however, that weighers had stopped saying one’s weight aloud by the time I joined WW as an employee in 2000.]

Going further….

The word “fatphobia” has come into use. The definition I found online is “fear or dislike of obese people or obesity.” I believe that is a real thing.

For me, I have never defined a person’s worth (mine, or anyone else’s) by their weight.

I lost weight because I felt uncomfortable and wanted to do something about it, and didn’t know how to lose weight in a healthy manner. I think that WW has a place for those of us who want to lose weight in a safe, healthy way. Nothing I ever experienced at WW, either as an employee, or as a member, has shown a fear or dislike of obese individuals.

I have seen a couple of things online. First, details such as keeping a food diary, or counting calories/points, or phrases such as “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels” have bothered some. I can understand the view that such things can become obsessive, but writing down what I ate and weighing and measuring everything was important to me because I did not know what a reasonable portion size was and I had trouble keeping track. Now, I am obsessive about some things, granted. But I have not been obsessive about keeping track of food or weighing and measuring things. And, once I reached a stable weight, I stopped doing those things, because by then, I knew what a reasonable portion size was and what amount of food was appropriate. As with anything else, these actions can be taken to extremes. But I don’t believe calorie counting causes eating disorders; I think that eating disorders can cause obsessive calorie counting. As for phrases such as “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels,” I have no problem with avoiding that phrase if it bothers anyone.

Second, there’s been criticism of WW for introducing a plan for teenagers. In 1979, there was a plan for teenagers (and pregnant individuals, for that matter). By 2000, there was not, and I was told that pregnant individuals and teenagers could not join WW unless they had a doctor’s note. WW has recently re-introduced a plan for teenagers, which they call a healthy eating plan and maintain that it’s not a weight loss plan. Still, I can see that this is problematic. Certainly teenagers should be taught good nutrition (I was, in school). On the other hand, I definitely see the point that it’s better to wait until adulthood before making a choice as to whether or not to lose weight.

Another thing I’ve seen online is labeling “before” and “after” pictures as fatphobic. I’ve taken mine down because of that, even though I don’t see that display as equivalent to saying “see how pathetic I was before and see how wonderful I am now” because I don’t think in those terms. I was not pathetic when I was overweight and I am not any more or less wonderful now than I was then. But I can see how someone might interpret it that way.

I’ve learned other things in the past 40 years as well. After I left WW as an employee, I wrote a book about my weight loss experience, sure that people would want to know my weight loss story. They didn’t. The book didn’t sell many copies. After a couple of years, I realized that what I wrote might come across as pompous and rewrote the book. Still didn’t sell much. Since I rewrote it, I learned a lot more about weight loss. In particular, I’ve learned that no one weight loss program works for everyone, and that different individuals need to try different methods before finding one that works for them. Therefore, my experience may be entirely worthless to many. I don’t promote the book anymore; I can see that it may still come across as pompous. There are reasons it would be difficult to take it down (due to contracts with the suppliers) until 2021. Then I will remove it from circulation. (Fortunately, again, I rarely sell copies of it.)

After I left WW as an employee, I published a couple of food journals. Those remain in circulation because there are lots of reasons that an individual might want to track food aside from weight loss (carbs, salt, etc., which there is space for in those journals), and I feel they serve all those functions.

In this blog, I have previously published thoughts related to weight control. As I’ve stated above, I’ve learned a lot more about weight issues since then. I may delete those posts because of that. Or I may leave them to show the evolution and changing of my thought process over the years. I haven’t made a decision on that yet.

I am continuing to learn about these and other health issues, and about the impact these issues have, and continue to do my best to be sensitive to them.

Meanwhile, I do continue to share articles (such as those referenced below) on my Twitter account @joanhealthynote and my Facebook page if anyone is interested.


“…the body adjusts to weight loss. It quickly decreases the number of calories it needs to maintain its new, lighter size, says Corby Martin, PhD, director of the Ingestive Behavior Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. That means weight loss slows down over time.”
Mysteries of Weight Loss from @WebMD


After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight
“Researchers knew that just about anyone who deliberately loses weight — even if they start at a normal weight or even underweight — will have a slower metabolism when the diet ends.”
“What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower….”
“Their experience shows that the body will fight back for years.”
“Slower metabolisms were not the only reason the contestants regained weight, though. They constantly battled hunger, cravings and binges.”
“Dr. Proietto said. ‘The body puts multiple mechanisms in place to get you back to your weight. The only way to maintain weight loss is to be hungry all the time.'”


One Weight-Loss Approach Fits All? No, Not Even Close

Created Worlds – Short Story Collection by Joan Marie Verba

Created Worlds: Science fiction and fantasy short stories by Joan Marie Verba

The Wisest Wizard: Who will be the next Wisest Wizard? Maybe not who you think.

* The Sum of the Parts: Susan Page is a pacifist, who is attacked repeatedly by a criminal who evades arrest. Will she need to compromise her principles to defeat him?

* This One Time: Allira Elhalyn-Alton, and her daughter, Bruna, have always been protected by the men in their life. Can they stand on their own in a crisis?

* Death’s Scepter: Brothers Regis and Stefan Hastur have always been close. Will politics make them turn on each other?

* Mind-eater: Domenic MacAran seeks shelter in a house where the residents are terrorized by a bully. Can they turn the tables on him?

* The Honor of the Guild: A murder is committed and the Renunciates are blamed. Can Janna n’ha Cassilde solve the crime and restore the reputation of the guild?

* An Invitation to Chaos: Gwynn Alton has harbored resentment of his father since childhood. Will their simmering conflict mean danger for the Domains when the Towers experiment with their powers?

* The Mystery Woman of the Kilghard Hills: Young Kennard Lanart encounters a mysterious young woman in the woods, but his family is skeptical of his story. Will he, or they, uncover her secret?

* Safe Passage: Orain, a peddler, is beaten and robbed and left in an approaching blizzard. Can he get his merchandise back and evade the determined robbers?

“Safe Passage” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Snows of Darkover, January 1995. Reprinted by permission.

“The Madwoman of the Kilghard Hills” (retitled “The Mystery Woman of the Kilghard Hills”) was originally published in the Darkover anthology Towers of Darkover, July 1993. Reprinted by permission.

“An Invitation to Chaos” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Leroni of Darkover, November 1991. Reprinted by permission.

“The Honor of the Guild” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Renunciates of Darkover, March 1991. Reprinted by permission.

“Mind-eater” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Domains of Darkover, March 1990. Reprinted by permission.

“Death’s Scepter” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Four Moons of Darkover, November 1988. Reprinted by permission.

“This One Time” was originally published in the Darkover anthology Free Amazons of Darkover, December 1985. Reprinted by permission.


The Value of Your Own Web Development Project

When I was in the midst of my Full Stack Bootcamp, I was involved in a project where one of the requirements was to access an API. The instructor came by to the evaluate the proposal, and questioned the value of the project. He said why would anyone use the project when one could look up the same information on Google?

I didn’t have an answer then; I do now.

Back when I was taking the Front End Engineering Bootcamp, I made my own Astronomy Picture of the Day (this is encouraged by NASA, using their API). The images on this page show my version and NASA’s version of the APOD. In my opinion, my version is cleaner, less cluttered, and shows only the information that I’m personally interested in.



Similarly, yes, I can find out the local weather through any number of local weather apps. But I created my own through the Open Weather API, and it delivers a personal weather report giving all the information I want (and no excess information that I don’t need to see). I also coded a 7-day-weather forecast for an input city, and coded a current weather display for an input city. I use those to check out the weather where the Twins or Vikings are playing. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s accessible to me.

My movie search through the OMDB, is, I feel, much less cluttered than a Google search of a particular movie, and is also quick, easy, and accessible.

In summary, go ahead and make your own apps, even if you can get the same information elsewhere!

Short Treks: “The Brightest Star” review

I’ve been busy this month, and haven’t had time until now to write comments on “The Brightest Star,” which was a “Short Treks” episode of Star Trek: Discovery. (Yes, there are spoilers. Stop reading now if you don’t want any.)

The episode is about Saru’s origins on the planet Kaminar. Being a Saru fan, I was looking forward to this. What Saru established on Discovery is that his species, the Kelpiens, are a “prey” species, and they’ve evolved abilities as a result, such as the ability to sense danger (and there are “threat ganglia” which fan out from the back of his head when he does).

All this time, I thought that meant there was another intelligent species on Saru’s home planet which hunted them. While I guess this still could have been the case in Kaminar’s past, it isn’t during Saru’s time. Instead, a species called the Baul travel to Kaminar. They do not even beam down to the planet. Instead, in a ritual reminding me of the original Trek episode, “Taste of Armageddon,” Kelpiens just assemble in a certain spot and the Baul beam them up.

The rest of the story is Saru wondering what is out there in space. The Baul accidentally leave some of their technology behind, and Saru sends a signal. Eventually, Lt. Georgiou comes in a shuttle, picks Saru up, and takes him to the Federation.

Thus the debate among fans so far has been whether Georgiou violated the Prime Directive by going to get Saru. Personally, I don’t think so, because of the Next Generation episode “First Contact,” where Picard and co. take someone who wants to leave the planet and let her live in the Federation.

In my opinion, this is the wrong aspect of the Prime Directive to explore. The larger issue, in my opinion, is why the Federation is doing nothing to stop this. This is not 2 species on the same planet, or in the same solar system, preying on each other, in which case one might (though Kirk didn’t) make a case that interference is a violation of the prime directive. This is a case where one species from one solar system goes to another solar system, takes intelligent lifeforms off the planet, and has them for dinner. This is a no-no; more than that, this is an atrocity of the highest magnitude. FFS, doesn’t anyone remember “Journey to Babel” where members of the Federation were in an uproar over their members (and the Orions) doing illegal mining in the Coridon system, and doing everything to stop it? That was mining; this is murder. The Federation should start with sanctioning the Baul’s butts, continue with blockading the Kaminar system, and, if necessary, firing on Baul ships. Citizens of the Federation everywhere ought to be outraged (where the hell is Sarek?).

The writers have said that they know there are questions and those questions will be answered. I certainly hope so!

Later addition: Saru specifically said that the Baul was a predator species on his planet, which I take it to mean the Baul originated there, as did the Kelpians. In that case, the Prime Directive would apply; however, since the Baul apparently have transporter technology, I would think that the application of the Prime Directive would be very tenuous (the Baul may not have warp drive, but they’re close enough to it). In addition, it would seem that Vahar’ai is not a fatal condition, but a transition, loosely analogous to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. That, too (as Saru indicated), changes things.

Even later addition: I was right all along. The Baul have warp capability and the Prime Directive does not apply to them. The Federation should have had the Baul’s butts in a sling long before this. At least they finally come to the conclusion that the Prime Directive doesn’t apply and take action to keep the Kelpiens from being slaughtered.

Real World Web Development

Since I graduated from The Iron Yard, I’ve turned my attention to my own websites, of which I have several, to rewrite them and improve them. As I anticipated, real world experience is a little different than the experience in the classroom.

I’ve started with 2 sites: a site promoting me as a web developer/social media expert/video provider at, and an informational site featuring my healthy living books at

I wasn’t far along in developing these sites when I realized I would have to learn some additional skills in coding: working with social media widgets, for instance. But, I knew enough to realize I needed to find the developer’s area of Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get the code that I needed to put a social media widget or badge on a website. Once there, I needed to select the options I needed, and modify the code for the website, and again, the concepts I learned in class helped me to get everything working. In some cases, the process was fairly clear. In others, I had to search through the developer part of the site before I found the code or the combination thereof to use. I got one widget working in a timely manner. Another didn’t work, so I had to keep going back until I found a section that had code that worked for me. Yet another time, I kept getting error messages which did not make sense. So I did what I remembered hearing in class: I copied and pasted the error message right into Google, and immediately Stack Overflow said that the code wouldn’t work in a simulator, or even localhost…it would only work on a live web page. And indeed, that’s what did work.

I found some curious omissions, such as getting error messages because of the absence of “http” in the code for an “src=”…when I inserted the “http” it worked, but I wonder why it was missing in the first place.

Some code worked…and then it didn’t…and then it did…and then it didn’t. Same code.
Also, as I mentioned earlier in this blog, the documentation for these and other items was sometimes frustratingly obscure. Again, I learned enough in class to eventually determine what was going on by myself, but I can definitely see how, when I was just starting my classwork, I was not able to grasp some of the coding concepts explained in online documentation right away. They definitely presume that the reader knows things that a novice may not, in fact, know.

In spite of these obstacles, I got the 2 websites working satisfactorily. (I even successfully added a favicon and web counter to each site!) Now to see whether I can get my other websites updated as well.

Writing Code, Writing Stories

I’m probably not the first to notice that writing code is very similar to writing stories. There is structure and creativity involved. There’s writing the first draft, editing the draft, and then publishing the result for the public to view. There can be second/revised editions. There can be collaborations. Reviewers check and comment on the published result.

In particular, I’ve noticed that when I write a story, and think it’s complete, I still wait before sending it off or publishing it, because in the following days or week, I will get additional ideas on what to add, delete, or change. This has also happened with my code: I thought my “Demo Day” project was complete, but after a couple of days, I got additional ideas for improvements.

There’s definitely a similar feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction upon publication of either code or prose. The sense of fun in building also applies to both activities.

It’s hard to select a preference for one or the other; I think I’ll continue happily doing both.

Week 12 at The Iron Yard…end of class, but not the end of learning

I have now completed week 12 at The Iron Yard and have the certificate to prove it! Week 12 was another week of intensive learning. I completed an online portfolio, and in the process learned more about CSS styling as well as responsive design (and media queries). I made more pages based on the Open Weather API: one page which gives current weather conditions when the user inputs a city name or zip code, and one page which gives a 7-day forecast when the user inputs a city name or zip code.

My demo project is now live on the web. This proved to be a more complex process than I had anticipated, and I learned that there is a significant difference between a web page that simply displays data and a web page that accesses storage on a server.

I have always thought that coding was fun, and this class was a lot of fun…and a lot of work (and I’d do it all again if it could!). I’d highly recommend The Iron Yard to anyone who wants to learn coding, and highly recommend Jim as a Front End instructor. I’ll miss seeing my classmates daily, though there will be opportunities to see them again, especially since our Demo Day is later this month.

My plans are to start a job search, and to work on even more projects. I particularly wish to find out more about jQuery and about CSS animation. I expect that my GitHub repository record will remain active.

I also hope to speak to future Iron Yard classes and meetups to share all the fun I’ve had!

The Goal of Web Development

Lately, I’ve been constructing web pages for my online portfolio and for display on my own domains. One of the web pages I have made (this was the result of a class assignment, and it was a page that I wanted to make for myself) is the Astronomy Picture of the Day from the NASA API. (For those not familiar with APIs, they’re databases an entity keeps and allows others to access and use through a key). I made and styled my own Astronomy Picture of the Day and compared it with NASA’s. NASA’s is larger and has a lot of links and added information. It’s great for those who want links and added information, but to me, the appearance is “busy.”  I styled my own Astronomy Picture of the Day (which NASA encourages the use of its API for – essentially, they tell web developers such as myself, “go ahead and make your own Astronomy Picture of the Day using our data.”), and I find it much more to my taste. I’m now checking my version daily.

Similarly, I made and styled my own weather app from the Open Weather API (the Open Weather API essentially says, “go ahead and make your own weather report using our data”). I realize there are a number of weather apps out there that users can customize to their personal tastes, but this is my very own weather app that I specifically styled to my own personal tastes and I am happy with it.

It occurred to me that this is the goal of coding (or more specifically, front end web development): to make applications/web pages that present users with the information they want in the style they prefer. I find this both challenging and exciting, and is one of the reasons I find coding so much fun.

Week 11 at The Iron Yard

My project for Demo Day was nearing completion this week. I made the pages responsive, mostly with the use of the Aphrodite library. I also added a “print” button to the main directory page. Right now all that I may need to add are more test entries and perhaps some minor styling changes.

With the Demo Day project well on its way to completion, I spent time this week learning additional skills by working on additional projects. I built an online portfolio, with screen captures of projects I have completed, and links to both the code on GitHub and to the working web pages. The portfolio page also contains a summary of what I’ve learned at The Iron Yard.

I felt a great sense of accomplishment on Thursday when the API call that I sent to the Open Weather API worked on the first try. I spent most of the rest of the day on Friday building my own weather app, which I’ve wanted to do ever since The Iron Yard Crash Course I attended before starting week 1.

Our campus director started talking about job seeking skills this week, which was most welcome. She invited us to find three job listings for web developers, and I was pleasantly surprised to find four that I felt I was qualified for.

Next week is week 12…even more learning to come!

Week 10 at The Iron Yard

This week I started my project for Demo Day and worked on it for most of the week. I was very pleased with the progress I made this week, and even more pleased with the fact that I was learning more ways to use JavaScript and ReactJS to build a web page. For example, I wanted to make a list from a string where the entries were separated by carriage returns. The method I first tried resulted in error messages. So I searched on Google for a technique that would work and was directed to, where I found an example that was similar to what I wanted to do. In particular, it suggested that the method be placed between the render and the return, instead of within the return. I did and it worked. I have searched Google for information on other techniques I have wanted to use, and have found it (and, among other online resources) to be helpful. I’ve also been using Trello to keep track of the features that I want to include and my progress on those features (those not started yet, those in progress, and those which have been completed).

I also made more progress on preparing an online “portfolio” of my work. I have three projects in place and visible (a chat function, an API call to the omdb media database, and a “guess a number” game), but need a unifying home page. That’s still in the beginning stages, but taking shape.

Our class took a field trip to Best Buy headquarters to talk to the web developers there. They gave us a tour and answered our questions. It was informative to learn about what sort of work they do, and what sort of knowledge and skills are required in their jobs. They’ve offered a place there for our Demo Day in September.

Continuing work on the Demo Day project next week. Still having fun!

Week 9 at The Iron Yard

The week started out on Sunday when I took a look at some code that Jim had introduced to us about a month ago. At the time, I had only a vague idea of what the code was for and how it worked. Now I realized that I understood it fairly thoroughly. (Progress!)

Early this week, we all worked on getting our chat functions working with Horizon, placing data on a web page for retrieval. Wednesday we had a lecture on Java (even though our course is front end web development) so that we would have an idea of what it was about and what it did. Thursday, our class voted to have Jim go over APIs and jQuery (he included Bootstrap as a bonus), all of which was very useful. For the afternoon lab session, we were asked to develop code to get data from an API with  jQuery, and at the end of class I was feeling discouraged because I had been unable to make a successful connection to the server. After a brief discussion on Slack in the evening, I was back on track on Friday and made a successful API retrieval using jQuery. Not only that, but I felt I understood the jQuery code clearly.

I have been going over previous assignments and improving the code and functionality in preparation for building an online “portfolio” of my work. I am very pleased with myself for taking code that I wrote only 2 weeks ago and making significant improvements to the style, functionality, and sophistication. Friday afternoon, Jim went over with me how to place that code on one of my web pages to start the online portfolio.

Friday morning we also went over my project for the upcoming “Demo Day” in detail, mostly diagramming it on the board.  Working on this will, I expect, take up a significant part of the next 3 weeks. I feel excited about getting started with it.

Week 8 at The Iron Yard

We continued our work in React JavaScript this week, with an introduction to Horizon and RethinkDB to facilitate placing data on a web page. Our exercise this week was to develop a chat application. At the end of class on Tuesday, I was feeling discouraged because I had worked all afternoon and not made much progress with the code. However, by the end of class Wednesday, I was making significant progress, and on Thursday I was seeing satisfactory results.

There are still some subtleties in the code that I am working to grasp. However, I realized that while I may not understand everything completely at this point, I am gaining more familiarity with the code the more I work with it.

I also had some difficulties uploading code to GitHub; again, because of not realizing the ways that GitHub handles uploaded files. Fortunately, Jim (our instructor) was able to suggest the appropriate instructions to get things working again.

I also discussed my idea for my project for “Demo Day” with Jim, and was able to define some realistic goals.

Jim says one more week of lecture, and then we begin work on our graduation projects for “Demo Day.” This promises to be exciting.

Week 7 at The Iron Yard

We continued our work on React this week. Our activities included splitting our previously written JavaScript code (in earlier assignments) into Component modules, and learning web navigation using the Router tag. We also learned how to set up scripts to install webpack functionality, and how to reference fonts within React components. I’m impressed with the results of our coding exercises: we are building more and more sophisticated web pages.

When discussing our progress for the week, one of my fellow students remarked that the times when we think, “Oh, yes, we’re getting this” are often accompanied by thoughts of, “oh, no, this is really hard and will we ever understand this?” Certainly I have felt this way, though I know from past coding experience that eventually, yes, I will understand this, and having moments when I wonder if I ever will are part of the process (though undoubtedly frustrating at the time).

In any event, looking forward to seeing what we can build next week.